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Epigenetics and the sanctity of life

This past Tuesday, Dr. Clem Persaud was on the U of T campus and gave a talk regarding epigenetics and its relationship to the life issues. I will give a summary of the talk and then give a little bit of commentary.

Basically, epigenetics is a new wave of science dealing with gene expression. It is now becoming more apparent that things in our environment, such as stress, the food we eat, exercise and maybe even plants in a classroom can change the way in which our genes are expressed. These changes can affect our health and even how we act and think. Dr. Persaud gave some intriguing studies demonstrating epigenetics and its effects on gene expression (these effects can even span two or three generations!).

What does all of this have to do with the sanctity of life? Well, Dr. Persaud mentioned the abortion-breast cancer link and health defects in IVF babies. In the first case, a full-term pregnancy, according to Dr. Persaud, protects a woman from breast cancer. Inversely, an interrupted pregnancy, such as abortion, can increase the risk of breast cancer. The reason for this is that during pregnancy the woman has a high level of estrogen. Once a pregnancy is interrupted, this high level of estrogen has no where to go and can influence gene expression, potentially leading to the generation of cancer cells.

In the second example of IVF babies, Dr. Persaud mentioned that defects occur during the prepartion of the embryo before implantation into the womb. The manipulations of the embryo during the IVF process can lead to changes in gene expression, leading to birth and health defects of the IVF baby.

My commentary:

Dr. Persaud was both engaging and intriguing while discussing the topic of epigenetics. I was impressed that he could take something as complex as epigenetics and turn it into a presentation that everyone understood and enjoyed. From what Dr. Persaud discussed, epigenetics could be another avenue in science that shows how treating life as a means to an end (such as IVF and abortion) can lead to negative consequences. UTSFL thanks Dr. Persaud for a great talk!

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To be or not to be (a sperm)… that is the question

When arguing with the other side about when life begins, you might hear the argument that “We don’t really know for sure when a sperm stops being a sperm, so do you people also want to save the sperm?” Luckily for us, this argument can be answered in the following way. From Ethika Politika:

In normal fertilization, many sperm penetrate the corona radiata of the ovum (a layer of follicle cells surrounding the ovum). Then, typically only one sperm will penetrate the zona pellucida (a film of glycoproteins surrounding the oocyte) and reach the oocyte. The sperm’s membrane then fuses with the actual membrane of the oocyte. This fusion triggers changes in the oocyte (or rather, what was the oocyte) so that (a) the membrane of this new cell undergoes a rapid polarization, and (b) a calcium wave is produced throughout the new cell’s cytoplasm so that the zona pellucida hardens over approximately 30 minutes and repels penetration by sperm. These facts indicate that what is living at this point is not an ovum.

Did you get all that? All it is saying is that only one sperm fully penetrates an egg (oocyte) and after this, there are changes to this “oocyte” that indicate that it is not an oocyte anymore. So, we are not saving the sperm: We are saving a different organism because at fertilization a sperm and an egg cease to exist. A whole new organism is present.

The article then goes on to explain newer techniques of in-vitro fertilization and how these newer techniques are raising questions as to when sperm and ovum cease to exist. Just because we do not know where the “line” is when sperm/ovum combine to form a zygote does not mean we ditch what we know; namely that a new life is created when a sperm and egg fuse. In-vitro fertilization cannot override basic biological principles.

“Quebec’s free IVF plan turns children into property”

Starting August 5, the government of Quebec will begin to publicly fund all in-vitro fertilization procedures in the province:

The initiative, announced Tuesday by Health Minister Yves Bolduc, makes Quebec the first jurisdiction in North America to publicly fund the procedure.  “It’s good news for Quebec. We are the first, which means we are the best on this kind of program,” he said, according to CTV.

“It’s good for Quebec because it will increase the birth rate,” he said.  “It’s good for health-care services because it will lower neonatal costs. And it’s good for parents.”

Bolduc says the plan will cost the province $25 million in the first year, and $63 million by 2013-2014; but critics warn that it could reach as high as $200 million per year.

However, according to pro-life leader Georges Buscemi of Camagne Quebec-Vie, this decision will cause much harm in La Belle Province:

Georges Buscemi, president of Campagne Quebec-Vie, the province’s branch of Campaign Life Coalition, criticized the plan for further inculcating the notion that there is a “right” to have a child.  “By forcing all taxpayers to pay for fertility treatments, we are creating this de facto right to have a child,” he said, “and thus reinforcing the idea that a child is some-thing that can be given from one person to another – a piece of property.”

He explained that IVF is “actually an abortive process that kills human beings.”  In order to find a viable embryo, the doctors must “create” many embryos, he said, the “excess” of which are eliminated or frozen.

During IVF the baby “results not from the total self-giving of two loving spouses but from a laboratory intervention in a clinical setting,” he added.  “IVF reinforces the mentality that the child is your property, and that it is there to fulfill your needs.”

“A child isn’t just property, to be manufactured by the government at taxpayers’ expense and handed over to whomever feels they want a child,” he said.  “A child isn’t there to fulfill your needs, you should be there for it.”

Read the whole article here.

Why children should not be treated as commodities

Check out this article on a recent study regarding children conceived through sperm donation by the Commission on Parenthood’s Future:

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/study-shows-problems-for-adults-conceived-by-sperm-donation/

This one quote from donor-conceived Alana Sveta stands out:

 “It’s just that we, the children, haven’t been empowered to vocalize our issues yet. The needs and concerns of our mothers and their partners have trumped and stifled our own,

Our culture of “choice” is really a lie when you think of it. Having children is not a “right” in the sense that our society views rights. No one has a right to treat a person as a “product” just because they desire a child.  There are serious repercussions with sperm donation and this study has done a good job in highlighting the potential problems for these children.

I urge you to read the article and reflect on the results.  And then ask yourself a question: “How would I feel if I were conceived in this way?”

Pampers Ad Features Babies in the Womb

I’m no fan of the iPad, but this new Pampers ad is pretty great and it’s been making the rounds in pro-life circles.

Jill Stanek provides some context by pointing to an old G.E. ad from 2002 for 4D ultrasounds that apparently raised ire from pro-choicers because… um… I guess… babies?

Neither of these ads are intentionally pro-life, but if you take a look at what “a pregnancy” actually is, it’s hard not to consider what would happen if these children weren’t “wanted.”

(ps don’t buy an iPad)

Amazing Photographs of Unborn Animals

Just as you may have expected, they’re just “blobs of cells.” Except, not at all.

These amazing embryonic animal photographs of dolphins, sharks, dogs, penguins, cats and elephants are from a new National Geographic Documentary called “Extraordinary Animals in the Womb”. The show’s producer, Peter Chinn, used a combination of three-dimensional ultrasound scans, computer graphics and tiny cameras to capture the process from conception to birth. They are the most detailed embryonic animal pictures ever seen.

Unborn elephant

Unborn animal

Unborn animal

Unborn dolphin

Unborn animal

Unborn puppy

Unborn puppy

Unborn penguin

File this one away under “duh—life begins at conception.”

Categories: Abortion, IVF, Stem Cells Tags: ,